Managers should tell compelling stories to enhance their internal business communication and encourage behaviors that are beneficial to the company.
Each day employees perpetuate spoken and unspoken values that are the essence of your company. These values govern behavior and affect the success of your organization.
If individual values are consistent with company policies and strategic initiatives, companies almost run themselves; employees will naturally contribute to the organization’s success.
The problem is that without active and intelligent management participation, individual values can be harmful to the organization and produce poor performance. How do managers effectively participate in the internal communication that shapes values?
Being a great story-teller to inspire and encourage
The short answer is through great story telling. Leaders need to tell memorable stories that are consistent with founding company principles and encourage optimal behaviors. I’m not talking about mission statements or strategic plans, but interesting engaging stories, company parables that make it clear how to act.
THE THREE C's OF ENGAGING STORIES
#1 - Be clear. Keep it simple.
A core value must be easily understandable. If a 5th grader can’t understand what you’re saying, it’s probably too complicated.
Consider the famous story of Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, who stated that every decision could be made surrounding one principle: Southwest is the low cost airline provider. When marketing suggested that Southwest should serve meals on their longer routes because customer surveys showed that consumers would like it. Kelleher asked if this would help make Southwest the low cost airline provider. The answer was a clear no and the decision on the request was clear as well.
This is a great story because it provides a clear direction for self-directed decision making within the organization. The core principle is clear. If an initiative doesn’t support the company mission, it shouldn’t be implemented.
#2 - Be concrete. We are wired for remembering sensory details.
The details help us to picture in our minds how something should be carried out. This means that communications about important initiatives should move beyond abstract statements to specific action items with detailed instructions. Include visual aids where possible.
For example, if you want people to attend an event, provide a map, details about the hours of operations and where they should check in. If you want a new procedure to be followed, document it, create diagrams and develop a video demonstration stepping employees through the process.
#3 - Be consistent. Inconsistency undermines credibility and confuses people.
The most successful managers repeat the same thing multiple times through multiple mediums. Research conducted by professors Neeley and Leonardi and published in the May 2011, Harvard Business Review showed that managers that were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.
Hold true to your values and act in accordance with them. Find new creative ways of expressing core values. With each new idea, event or project find ways to tie it back to a key company value and don’t be shy about explicitly stating the connection.
Being a leader in a collaborative world
As there are more ways for employees to get information through collaborative technology and the web, it is important for managers to be able to capture attention in order to effectively compete with other influences. Great story tellers are rewarded with loyalty and hard work.
Ultimately, it may go to the desire for purpose and meaning that can be created from shared values. With so much information and points of view, it becomes difficult to sort through the dialogue and establish the sense of connection to a larger purpose. Stories that provide us with direction, details and consistency help us to act without the paralysis of analysis.
There is tremendous power in our ability to collaborate and share ideas. The flat organizations of today are transparent and enable information to flow freely. Leaders should listen to the flow of information and help facilitate the understanding of how ideas connect to organizational principles.
Today's blog post written by Brad Gant
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